Popular Science Monthly/Volume 27/June 1885/Are We to Become Africanized?




JUNE, 1885.



DURING the past few months the presence of the negro in the United States, his future, and his possible influence upon our social and political fabric, have become a fertile subject of discussion. Thus far the argument has tended entirely in one direction, all writers seeming to be agreed that the country is rapidly getting into a bad way, by reason of its millions of black laborers. Various remedies have been prescribed, all of them more or less difficult to apply.

It would appear that the wisest course to pursue would be to first study the case thoroughly, and make sure that the alleged patient is really ill, before pouring into him any nauseous draughts. It is possible that he is merely a hypochondriac.

In "The Popular Science Monthly" for February, 1883, there appeared an article by Professor E. W. Gilliam, entitled "The African in the United States," in which, by a free handling of the statistics of the last two censuses, the author attempted to prove that the colored race is increasing in this country at a much more rapid rate than the whites, and that consequently, unless some effectual preventive measure against this increase be taken at once, we are in imminent danger of becoming Africanized. He proposed, as the cure for the impending evils, a wholesale, forced migration of the colored people.

This article is reenforced by another from the same author, in the November number of the "North American," in which the same views are reiterated.

As these articles have attracted much attention, it is desirable to notice them in some detail. The argument upon which Professor Gilliam bases his conclusion that the negroes are increasing faster than the whites runs as follows: During the decade 1870-'80 the whites increased, upon the face of the returns, 29 per cent, and the blacks 34 per cent. From the former rate of increase he subtracts 9 per cent, to account, as he says, for foreign immigration, leaving 20 per cent to represent what he calls the native increase. From the per cent of increase of the blacks, he deducts 5 per cent to allow for his surmise as to the extent of omissions in the ninth census, “leaving 30 per cent” (sic). Then he restores the 5 per cent, making a normal rate of increase of 35 per cent for the blacks, on the ground that in the future they will increase more rapidly than in the past. It can not be denied that, with these rates of increase for the two races, Professor Gilliam is well equipped for the task of Africanizing the country, and, if these figures, or any approach to them, are correct, we may well feel anxious for the fate of the “white man's government.”

With these figures as a basis, Professor Gilliam goes on to predict the population a century hence, with results as follows: Northern whites, 240,000,000; Southern whites, 96,000,000; Southern blacks, 192,000,000.

An analysis of the author's curious method of deducing these results will, however, aid to dispel this frightful vision of the future. The increase of white population between 1870 and 1880 was slightly less than ten millions. The number of immigrants during this period was a little in excess of two million eight hundred thousand. Subtracting the latter from the former, there is left a number which is 23 per cent of the population in 1870, not 20 per cent, as Professor Gilliam has it. But what does this 20 or 23 per cent (it matters not which) represent? Certainly not the increase of native whites, as he interprets it. The census gives directly the numbers of native whites in 1870 and in 1880, and the proportional gain of this class during the decade was not less than 31 per cent. These are the figures which he should have used in making his comparisons.

Now as to the increase of the colored element. Professor Gilliam, at the outset, deducts from its rate of increase 5 per cent, representing about a quarter of a million persons, on account of the imperfections of the census of 1870. Concerning the omissions of this census little is known, except that they were generally distributed through the cotton States, were largely, if not mainly, of the colored element, and, of that element, approximated nearer three fourths of a million than one fourth, and certainly exceeded half a million. Professor Gilliam's subsequent addition of 5 per cent, “as an obvious consideration points to the conclusion that the blacks will for the future develop in the South under conditions more and more favorable,” certainly is not warranted by the facts or the probabilities, and, as we are reasoning from what has been and is, and not from what may be, it looks very much like begging the whole question.

Correcting Professor Gilliam's statements, it appears that the ratios of gain during the past decade were, as nearly as can be known, as follows: For native whites, 31 per cent; for blacks, not above 25 per cent.

But all such comparisons, based upon the results of the ninth census, are utterly worthless. No reliable conclusions regarding the increase of negroes can be drawn from a comparison in which these statistics enter. The extent of the omissions can be a matter, within certain wide limits, of conjecture only. The only comparisons which yield results of any value are those made between the statistics of the eighth and tenth censuses. That the former was, to a certain slight extent, incomplete, is doubtless true, especially in regard to the colored element, but the omissions were trifling as compared with those of the ninth census. A comparison between the results of the eighth and tenth censuses shows the advantage to be clearly in favor of the native whites, who increased 61 per cent in the twenty years, while the colored element increased but 48 per cent. This great increase of the native whites was effected in spite of the fact that the ranks of the adult males were depleted to the extent of over a million by the casualties of war, which the negroes scarcely felt.

This relatively greater increase of the whites is sustained by the record during the days of slavery. In but one decennial period since 1790 did the negroes increase as rapidly as the whites, and in most cases their increase was far less, as appears in the following table, extracted from Scribner's “Statistical Atlas”:

White. Colored.
1790 to 1800 35·76 32·38
1800 to 1810 36·13 37·46
1810 to 1820 34·12 28·57
1820 to 1830 34·03 31·41
1830 to 1840 34·72 23·28
1840 to 1850 37·74 26·61
1850 to 1860 37·69 22·06
1860 to 1870 24·76 9·86
1870 to 1880 29·21 34·85

It will be noticed that the only period during which the colored element increased faster than the white element was between 1800 and 1810, during the continuance of the African slave-trade, which ceased in 1807. It will also be seen that the rate of increase of the negroes, while irregular, shows a marked and rapid decrease—a much greater decrease than that of the whites—even up to 1850, when immigration from Europe began to make itself felt.

This decrease of the colored race in proportion to the whites is set forth still more strongly in the following table, quoted from the same work:

Whites. Colored.
1790 80·73 19·27
1800 81·13 18·87
1810 80·97 19·03
1820 81·61 18·39
1830 81·90 18·10
1840 83·17 16·83
1850 84·31 15·69
1860 85·62 14·13
1870 87·11 12·65
1880 86·54 13·12

Between 1790 and 1860 the proportion of colored to total population is seen to fall from over 19 per cent to but little in excess of 14 per cent—a decrease of fully one fourth. In the half-century which elapsed between the date of the first census and 1840, during which time immigration was very slight, it decreased not less than 244/100 per cent, although for one third of this period the slave-trade was being carried on.

Such being the history of the negroes in ante-bellum days, when they were property, and when every consideration of self-interest prompted their owners to watch over their health, to encourage child-bearing, and to protect and preserve the children, is it to be supposed for a moment that this careless, improvident, ignorant race, thrown suddenly upon its own resources, should at once, or within a generation, take on a rate of increase more rapid than before emancipation? The wonder is, that in the past twenty years they have not fallen further behind.

Considering the colored race in this country as a whole, it is seen that it has not held its own, either in a state of slavery or thus far in freedom. It is but another illustration of the fact, that an inferior race can not thrive side by side with a superior one. It would seem, therefore, under the circumstances, more profitable to study ways and means for preserving and strengthening the manual labor element of the South, rather than to debate the methods of getting rid of it.

In “An Appeal to Cæsar,” by Judge Tourgee, the question of the future of the colored element is discussed from a somewhat different point of view. Without committing himself as to the increase or decrease of the colored element in the country at large, in proportion to the whites, the author finds, upon a somewhat superficial study of the statistics bearing upon the question, that in the South Atlantic and Gulf States the negroes have increased decidedly in proportion to the whites, while in those States which he classes as border States they have relatively decreased. This massing of the negroes in what may, for convenience, be denominated the cotton States, coupled with the steady sharpening of the line of separation between the two races—a line which, as the author claims, becomes more and more accentuated as the inferior race increases in numbers and advances in education will lead to inevitable conflict between the two races. As the negro becomes numerically the stronger, and, through education, appreciates more fully his present position, he will commence a struggle for the mastery, and then the days of the Ku-klux will be eclipsed in blood and slaughter. Such is the condition to which these ill-fated States are hurrying. To ward off this impending evil, Judge Tourgee urges upon the General Government the work of educating the blacks. Such, in brief, is the “Appeal to Cæsar.”

Education seems to be regarded as a universal panacea for all the ills of the people, but in this case, according to the author's own statement of the situation, the education of the negroes would but precipitate the impending conflict. Our only safety would seem to be in leaving them in ignorance.

The whole “Appeal” is based upon the theory that the negroes are migrating southward from the border States into those of the South Atlantic and the Gulf in great numbers. This theory the author attempts to establish by deductions from census statistics.

It may, in passing, be suggested that a careful revision of his figures will show many important arithmetical errors, which may modify very sensibly some of his conclusions. It is unnecessary to follow his methods of reasoning, as the truth regarding the questions at issue can be arrived at much more directly. The fact is, that the negro is not migrating southward. There is no massing of the colored people in the cotton States. In 1860 the colored element of these States formed 66 per cent of the colored element of the country. In 1880 it formed precisely the same proportion. Between 1860 and 1880 the colored element of the country increased 48 per cent. The same element of the cotton States increased, in this interval, in precisely the same proportion, neither more nor less. These figures are conclusive upon this point, and from them there is no appeal.

But the fact remains that, in these cotton States, the colored element was in 1880, in comparison with the white element, slightly stronger than it was twenty years before. This, however, is due not to a southward movement of the colored people, but to a decrease in the rate of increase of the whites of those States. While the increase of the native white population in the country at large between 1860 and 1880 was sixty-one per cent, that part of the same element resident in the cotton States increased but thirty-nine per cent. This low rate of increase among the whites might seem to establish Judge Tourgee's position, though not in the way he states it, were it not for the fact that three fourths of this increase took place during the decade between 1870 and 1880. The increase of whites in the South received a most effectual check during the four years of war, in which every male capable of bearing arms was in the field, and in which fully half a million laid down their lives. Since the war the white race has taken up a rate of increase equal to, if not greater than, that of the country at large, a greater rate than that of the colored people within its borders, and there is no apparent reason why they should not maintain it. It is not, then, a migration of the negroes southward which has caused their relative gain in these States, but it is the losses of the white race—losses which, however, are rapidly being repaired.

As the negroes are not increasing as rapidly as the whites, either in the country at large or in the cotton States, and therefore are destined to become constantly of less numerical importance, the pressing necessity for doing something to ward off the evils predicted by the authors above quoted does not appear to exist.